Summertime reading: the best of the printed page courtesy of the good people at Pulpfiction Books
For me, summer time means one thing: a chance to finally curl up with that book I've been meaning to read all year long.
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But if you don't already have a book in mind, how does one go about picking the perfect summer read? Too often I walk into a bookstore and find myself utterly overwhelmed. I weave through the seemingly neverending stacks of books, dizzy with confusion, until at last I admit defeat and grab whatever novel Oprah has recently stamped with her seal of approval.
So this summer, I decided to speak with Christopher Brayshaw, owner of Pulpfiction Books, for a little direction. Pulpfiction Books has two locations, on Main Street and in Kitsilano, and both stores offer a wide array of new and used books.
Here are Brayshaw's top five picks for your summer must-read list:
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Fans of this fantasy series, which serves as the basis for the HBO hit Game of Thrones, will be unsurprised to see the fifth and latest installment top Brayshaw's list.
Penned by bestselling author George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons is part of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and was released July 12th, an agonizing six years after the last novel.
In fact, hordes of diehard fans filled Pulpfiction Books for the midnight release of A Dance With Dragons, many of them dressed up like their favourite character from the series.
For the uninitiated, Martin's series revolves around political families battling for control of the fictional continent of Westeros, with plenty of sword-fighting, magic, and (as you've probably guessed from the title) dragons thrown into the mix.
"It's incredibly suspenseful; it's basically a Shakespearean play with 300 to 400 characters," says Brayshaw. "The author is not gentle with his characters and many of them do not survive. [The series] is full of humour, there are little bits of dirty sex and lots of violence."
While fans who are caught up on the series will likely be dying to read A Dance With Dragons, newbies should probably start from the beginning with the first novel, Game of Thrones, if they don't want to be confused by this admittedly complex series.
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis, who Brayshaw calls "one of the most influential short story writers in American fiction right now," has been writing short stories for the better part of the last 35 years. Now, fans can enjoy this full collection that includes all of Davis' published stories.
And although this book may be hefty in size, most of the stories are less than a page long—with some only a single sentence—making The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis a relatively breezy summer read. Her stories are the perfect combination of thought provoking and refreshingly funny.
"A lot of the stories are monologues from people who are either crazy or at least a little bit crazy," says Brayshaw. "You get to spend time in the heads of people who are maybe not 100 per cent all there."
According to Brayshaw, Davis does not seem to get the readership and recognition in Canada she does in the United States, but that is something Pulpfiction Books is aiming to change. And based on the sales of The Collected Stories, it would appear their efforts have been a success.
"Whenever we get copies of this one, they never seem to last more than a couple of days," says Brayshaw.
The Tiger: a True Story of Vengeance and Survival - John Vaillant
In his latest novel, Vaillant takes his reader to the year 1997 in Russia, where a wild, man-eating tiger is on the prowl and a group of hunters is charged with the task of killing this deadly predator before it claims its next victim.
"It's a very suspenseful story that Vaillant paces almost like a novel," says Brayshaw.
A Vancouverite and frequent visitor to Pulpfiction Books, Vaillant practices what is known as "narrative non-fiction," which is essentially thoroughly researched non-fiction. The story is relayed in vivid detail, and Vaillant provides historical context and extensive information about tigers.
"He only has two books out right now, but he is a really extraordinary local writer," says Brayshaw.
A City of Love and Revolution: Vancouver in the Sixties - Lawrence Aronsen
"This is, as far as I know, the first full history of Vancouver's hippie movement," says Brayshaw.
And what a history it is. Aronsen, a local Vancouverite and history professor at the University of Alberta, has done extensive research for this book. He dug up dozens of rare photographs and images from sources including the Georgia Straight, which, appropriately, sprang up as an underground newspaper during the '60s hippie movement.
A City of Love and Revolution details the spread of the "hippie" lifestyle from San Francisco that changed Vancouver from a white-collar Protestant town to a city of peace, love and sexual revolution.
So far, Brayshaw says the clientele that have been snatching up this book fall into one of two categories: young 18-25 year-olds, looking to learn more about their parent's era and those who remember the sixties and want to relive their free-spirited days.
Whether this book jogs your memory or serves as your first exposure to the world of hippie Vancouver, it's a definite must-read for any local history buff.
Methodist Hatchet by Ken Babstock
If novels aren't really your style, Ken Babstock's Methodist Hatchet is an excellent collection of poetry.
Babstock is an award-winning Canadian poet, and, according to Time Magazine, "one of the best things to happen to poetry in Canada."
Babstock makes his heritage well known, peppering his poems with references to Canadian cities, landmarks and pop icons.
In their review of Methodist Hatchet, the Globe and Mail declared, "Methodist Hatchet is as precise as it is expansive, as complex as it is companionable... Babcock is one of the most exciting lyric poets writing today," while Puritan says, "This book's poetic voice... represents our greatest opportunity to make sense of seemingly schizophrenic world."
With praise like that, it's easy to understand why Brayshaw says Methodist Hatchet is one of the bestsellers at Pulpfiction Books right now: Babcock's poems are a summer must.